New threat to Swiss firms which used slave labour in Nazi era

Elan Steinberg of the World Jewish Congress has issued an ultimatim to Swiss companies. Keystone / AP Photo / Alistar Grant

The World Jewish Congress has threatened to take legal action against Swiss companies which used slave labour in Nazi Germany, if they fail to take part in a global settlement between Swiss banks and Jewish groups.

This content was published on July 28, 2000 minutes

Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), told Swiss radio the companies faced court proceedings if they didn't agree to cooperate with the $1.25 billion (SFr2 billion) out-of-court settlement within 30 days.

Under an agreement finalised by Judge Korman in New York this week, Swiss companies have to register before the 30-day deadline and cooperate by providing the names of slave labourers, used in Swiss subsidiaries in Germany during the Nazi era.

Korman's ruling opened the way to further legal action.

The companies involved have not been named, but are believed to include those in the metals, armaments and food industries. The main Swiss employers' organisation said on Thursday: "Firms that come forward risk nothing".

The food multinational, Nestlé, which had an affiliate in southern Germany, said on Thursday it was prepared to contribute to the settlement financially providing it received assurances of protection as the takeover company.

Two other Swiss companies, the aluminium concern, Algroup, and the engineering company, Georg Fischer, also said on Thursday they were prepared to cooperate on the issue of slave labour, and would open their records to the Bergier commission of historians investigating Switzerland's role during World War Two.

swissinfo with agencies

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